ULTRACONTEMPORARY Exhibition explores political art and its function in society

This collection of “emergency” art pieces is based on the fast pace at which our world changes.

Global warming, terror attacks and the rise of the alt-right are just some of the issues affecting our lives. In the art world, these global crises are the subject matter that artists draw from to make work that is representative of our daily struggles. But how close can an artist really come to responding to an emergency as it happens? The ULTRACONTEMPORARY Exhibition is driven by this question.

Founded by Thierry Geoffroy and curated by Tijana Miskovic, this collection of “emergency” art pieces is based on the fast pace at which our world changes. 

“In this space, we show art that is done every day. Every day there is a new exhibition,” says Geoffroy, speaking from his exhibition space at Art Africa Fair, held in Cape Town three months ago. 

This was the second time Geoffroy exhibited this format in South Africa. Back in June 2016, he hosted local and international artists in Johannesburg’s Museum of African Design (MOAD). 

Like at the MOAD, Geoffroy’s exhibition at the Art Africa Fair was never more than 24 hours old. Artists would come in at 2pm to change the work as a metaphor for how quickly the circumstances of the problems that they were responding to would change in the real world. These societal problems vary from environmental concerns to xenophobia. 

“This is about political art and what its function is in society,” he says. “It’s better to show them while they happen so that we can compete with other perceptions and information.”

Miskovic explains that the artworks are inspired by the artist’s interpretation of the day’s news, conversations with people and general observation. Geoffroy adds, “The now, you can define it, but it’s impossible to grab it because every time you want to grab the now, there’s a new now”. 

Described as a “Now is Now” movement, ULTRACONTEMPORARY has taken place in 10 countries so far. As more and more artists participate in this format, Miskovic hopes that the movement will change people’s perceptions about the urgency of these global issues.

“The work in this project is a way of contributing to the creation of a platform for art that can be expressed in an ultracontemporary way which means the artists would have a chance to express their worries and observations about society,” says Miskovic.